We went to Göttingen one Saturday to see my father off, who was to stay only one week with us. Unfortunately, Max Maulwurf threw a shovel into the works, so we had to cope with a detour by bus, in addition to four trains. However, fortunately, that bus went through Arnstadt, and past the palace. This palace is in the process of being restored, and the contrast immediately grabbed my attention:

This contrast is typical for the whole of Arnstadt: the most meticulously restored buildings next to ruins that need a lot of loving care and hard work. However, that work is being done all over the place. We started from the railway station, and went on to the palace garden, where we encountered our first little museum: the gardener’s shed next to the ruin of Schloss Neideck. This contained a maquette of the town as it was in the seventeenth century and a very enthusiastic woman who pronounced “kirche” as “kürshe”, which meant that following her as she pointed out the various bits of interest in the maquette was a bit hard.

There were workmen doing something good for the Neideck ruin, and they too were enthusiastic and told us all about their work. Proud, too, of their town, or at least that was what I inferred when I told one man that I rather liked Arnstadt: ‘Es gibst ja schlechter’. Or something like that. The bell tower of Schloss Neideck had been restored from a very bad condition: the stair had already fallen down in the eighteenth century. The Arnstadt solution was a bit like the one chosen for the castle in Kolding, in Denmark. Add a separate structure that is clearly in style and material different from the main ruin, which is preserved. In this case, a metal stairway and a wooden roof: the result here was quite good, as it was in Kolding, though I generally don’t hold with mixing new and old, as was done in the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam.

Pity, though, that much of the work is done on the cheap: white plastic window casements in renaissance fachwerk houses. But I guess that there isn’t a whole lot of money available for the town that advertises itself as Middle Germany’s Oldest Town. It was actually celebrating its thirteen-hundredth birthday:

There was no time for the Bach haus, for the railway museum, for the municipal museum, or for the palace museum. We did pass Karl Liebknecht’s birthplace, which was decorated with two plaques: one
from DDR times, celebrating Karl Liebknecht’s being born in the what the second plaque pronounced to be an old inn/apothecary:

The Liebfraukirche and the Bachkirche are really worth a visit. The Bachkirche has been restored, and is light and airy and presents an aura of joy. The Liebfraukirche needs a lot of work — a lot is being done, but more is necessary. It possesses two impressive sixteenth century altar pieces with sculpture, painting and historical graffiti. I didn’t feel like mixing snapshotting with being in a house of God, so I haven’t got pictures — but it’s as good or better as the big altar piece in the museum of Göttingen.

In the end, Arnstadt is currently two things: a heaven for the kind of artist who wants to sketch and paint dilapidated buildings after Anton Pieck, and a town that gives me a feeling of hope and energy: here people are working to preserve the heritage they are proud of. In a few years, Arnstadt will be clean, without rotten houses like this one, and that’s good, too. But I was great to see the work being done. Arnstadt: a place to visit and revisit.

(Oh, and the ice cream parlor has a delicious mint ice cream.)